Imagine if your go-to morning coffee stop transformed into a relaxing place to enjoy drinks and appetizers in the evening. That’s the reality in cities like Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles, where “Starbucks Evenings” has been rolling out at select Starbucks stores since 2010. The program adds beer, wine and small, tapas-like plates, like truffle macaroni and cheese and parmesan crusted chicken skewers, to the regular Starbucks menu after 4pm.
So far only 40 of over 11,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. participate in Starbucks Evenings, but the company has plans to introduce the program nationwide within the next few years, according to Chief Operating Officer, Troy Alstead.
Hoodline recently reported that the Starbucks Evenings will be coming to at least two San Francisco locations as soon as this summer. The Starbucks at 9th & Irving recently completed a major renovation, and has been hinting at the new program on its Facebook page, mentioning plans to introduce a “doggie day” and board game night, in addition to other activities. The location at Fisherman’s Wharf has already applied for a beer and wine license, and similar applications have been filed for Starbucks stores across the state, including Napa, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, Emeryville, Millbrae, Livermore, Petaluma and Pleasanton.
The Starbucks Evenings menus in participating cities suggest that the food may be region-specific and provide wines by the glass or the bottle. Some Evenings menu items listed on the Starbucks website include a cheese plate, salumi plate, artichoke spinach dip with pita chips, and bacon-wrapped dates with balsamic glaze.
The website explains that Starbucks Evenings locations will not provide complete restaurant service and that customers will still be required to place their orders at the register and wait for their names to be called. The regular coffee menu will still be available after 4pm, and stores with the Evenings program will stay open later. The website goes on to say that the Starbucks Evenings atmosphere will be “more mellow, less hurried,” and “perfect for winding down and having casual conversations.”
Local bar owners are not impressed by the new program, including David Zimmerman, president of the Inner Sunset Merchants Association and owner of Blackthorn, a nearby sports bar. “I think it’s a slippery slope,” he told Hoodline. “Starbucks owns a lot of locations, and if they start this trend, it could be troubling to have so many beer-and-wine operations pop up.” Zimmerman expressed concern over training Starbucks employees to serve alcohol. “Do any of them have experience dealing with over-served customers, or any of the issues that come with being a responsible bar owner?” he wondered.
Zimmerman said he doesn’t believe the Evenings program will be a threat to his business. “I’m not worried,” he said. “I don’t think Starbucks can create the energy and atmosphere that can pull customers away. I don’t see them coming up with the service and personalities that can really draw people in over the long term.”